I Want to Get a Dog: Part Two

Purchase or rescue?

This is a tough question.

As a former employee of the MSPCA (Massachuset Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and as a 16 year board member and President of the Suncoast SPCA in New Port Richey, Florida, I have great respect and loyalty to animal dedicated non profit organizations. Please understand that because an organization uses the name “humane society” or “society for the prevention of cruelty to animals” does not mean it is sanctioned, connected to, or overseen by the national organization of a similar name.

In the last few years, private rescue organizations have been the rage, popping up all over the place. As a practicing animal law attorney, I have counseled very successful rescue organizations both breed specific and non specific. But I have also interceded to salvage animals trapped in so called rescues which are in fact hoarding operations that subject animals to unspeakably horrible conditions.

Good rescue groups and humane societies can be found with some research. If you are looking for a specific breed group, contact the American Kennel Club to locate the local chapter for that breed. Very often that local chapter can help you find an affiliated (and approved) local breed specific rescue group.

Most counties or towns maintain animal control shelters funded by local government. Rarely are these “no kill” shelters. Local government funds such shelter primarily for the care and safety of the citizens. Many such organizations have made huge efforts to lower their kill numbers and increase their adoption numbers. The enlightened shelters have partnered with rescue, humane groups and some large chain pet stores to place animals in adoption homes. Many of the shelters are using their funding to promote spay-neuter and adoption. So these shelters are another source of pet adoption.

A note regarding no-kill verses allowable euthanasia shelters. There are wonderful no kill shelters. But the no kill philosophy is a privileged philosophy in a world of enormous numbers of stray and “unwanted” dogs and cats. It costs real money to house and feed animals. Warm and cuddle intentions are insufficient to run a shelter. What I find is that a true no kill shelter tends to take in only animals that are well assured to find homes; small toy dogs, and popular breeds of large dogs. The “junk dogs” like pit bull crosses and others wind up in less privileged shelters. Do not dismiss a euthanasia shelter; investigate their policy toward euthanasia and research their population statistics. Often, the policy will be that euthanasia will be performed only if the animal has no hope of placement because of a physical or mental disorder that means that the animal is unsafe for placement in a home. Sadly, choice on euthanasia is often required by the economic realities of shelter work.

Research on the internet can help you find non-profit humane societies. Make sure that you do some research on each organization. In Florida, the non profit rescue or society which is funded by contribution must be registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture. You are able to find the financial information on each registered organization. With this information, you are assured that the business of the organization is properly run; a properly run non profit business usually translates to a properly run shelter.

I also raised, bred and showed in confirmation, obedience and trails a champion line of Cairn terriers for almost two decades. The Cairn bred has a very large place in my heart. If you are looking for a specific breed, breeders registered with the AKC, are a good place to start your search for a local availability. Breeders that show dogs, generally breed to conform with the standard set for each breed of dog. The standard is under constant review by people who care (called the fancy) about the history and function of that specific breed. Information on the standard is available on the AKC website. In this modern time, breeders who show in confirmation (showing the structure of the animal such as at Westminster, Eukenuba or Crofts) also are showing in obedience, ground, hunting, or field trials, agility and service work trials. Most reputable breeders, spend a great deal of time and money for the betterment of their pedigree (line of dogs) and although the purchase price may seem high, few are making profit on each sale.

I am well aware that there are certain commercial breeders that are simply warehouses for the commercial sale of animals. These breeding operations, many located in large facilities in the midwest or south, use the breed name to jack up the puppy mill price of the dog with no attention to maintaining the breed standard for confirmation (body type and health of the breed) or the working origin of the animal. There are also backyard breeders which usually use harmful breeding practices to sell multi breeds through newspaper ads or flea market sales. Again these dogs are bred for sale without consideration for health or confirmation issues. There are also breeders advertising via internet or other ads that boast an increase in breed size or super function speciality that creates a “super dog.” Usually these breeders do not participate in AKC functions but may be affiliated in other “alternative” registry organizations. Make sure you research the negative posts that may be filed against such breeders.

The 3rd blog in this series will provide you with some criteria to use for the selection of where to obtain your pet and how to select the actual puppy or adult dog. The criteria should be used in every purchase or adoption option.